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Tuesday, 28 May 1968

Mr SNEDDEN (Bruce) (Minister for Immigration) - I believe that this amendment is put not with a true regard for dealing with the problem of conscientious objection. Indeed, the National Service Act already deals with conscientious objection, lt also deals with those people who, while not possessing a conscientious objection to participating in warfare, nevertheless are not prepared to participate in combatant duties. The reason why the Act as it is, unaffected in this respect by the Bill, deals with conscientious objection is because the entire weight of that piece of legislation is to determine the issue whether or not there exists in the case of an individual a moral imperative against carrying arms and participating in warlike activity either at all or as a combatant. The amendment which has been moved does not deal with the question of moral imperative at all. It deals with a proposal for selective pacifism. It is perfectly clear to every honourable member who has looked at the Act and the Bill that where there is a moral imperative on the part of an individual he is exempted from the obligation to render national service. If that moral imperative is of a lesser volume and relates not to rendering service but to actual participation in warlike activities, then he is granted the right to serve in noncombatant activities.

The facts of the matter are - and I reiterate them because they must not escape the Committee and those people who may read the report of this debate - that the Opposition's proposal is for selective pacifism. It does not deal with conscientious objection at all, because selective pacifism is not reconcilable in any way with the preservation of the entity of the state. The preservation of the entity of this state and indeed the preservation of the state itself is the prime responsibility of every man elected to this Parliament. The point was made by the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) - certainly in different language, but he agrees with me on this point. If there be an honourable member in this chamber who does not see as his primary duty as a member of the National Parliament the preservation of the entity of the state of Australia - not merely the preservation of the entity but the very preservation of the state itself - let him now say so.

This amendment embodies a political and not a moral proposal. It is a moral proposal if you talk about a conscientious objection possessed by somebody activated by a moral imperative. It is a political proposal if you put forward a proposal which relates to selective pacifism. Let me carry the point further. It is said by the Opposition that an individual should be able to make his judgment as to whether he will participate in a particulr war. Let us put aside every other proposition that may muddy the picture. This is the reality of the proposition: Every individual in the community, so it is said, ought to make the judgment himself as to whether he will participate in a war - not the Vietnam war in particular; put that aside, because this is to go into the legislation for an unknown length of time. Let me carry this point a step further. If an individual can choose whether he will serve in a particular war, will the Opposition deny the right of an individual soldier to determine on a basis of selective pacifism which particular action he will fight? Is there any less reason for a soldier serving in the armed forces to say: 'I will defend this ridge or attack that ridge but not defend this or attack that?' Who is to make the judgment?

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